Dafydd ab Gwilym - Encyclopedia

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DAFYDD AB GWILYM (c. 1340 - c. 1400), son of Gwilym Gam and Ardudful Fychan, greatest of the medieval Welsh poets,. was born at Bro Gynin, Cardiganshire, about the year 1340. Educated by a scholarly uncle, Llewelyn ab Gwilym Fychan of Emlyn, he became steward to his kinsman, Ivor Hael of Maesaleg, Monmouthshire, who also appointed him instructor to his daughter. The latter arrangement leading to an attachment between tutor and pupil, the girl was banished to a convent in Anglesey, whither the poet followed her, taking service in an adjacent monastery, but on returning to Maesaleg he was permitted to retain his stewardship. He was elected chief bard of Glamorgan and became household bard to Ivor Hael. At Rhosyr in North Wales he met Morfudd Lawgam, to whom he addressed 147 amatory odes. In consequence of attempting to elope with this lady, Dafydd ab Gwilym, being unable to pay the fine demanded by her husband, was imprisoned. Liberated by the goodwill of his friends, he went back to Maesaleg, and. after the death of his patron, retired to his birthplace, Bro Gynin, Tradition states that he was a man of noble appearance, and his poems bear evidence of high mental culture. He was acquainted with the works of Homer, Virgil, Ovid and Horace, and was also a student of Italian literature. Especially remarkable as a poet of nature in an age when more warlike themes were chosen by his contemporaries, his poems entitled "The Lark," "The Wind" and "The Mist" are amongst his finest efforts. He has been called the Petrarch, the Ovid, and (by George Borrow) the Horace of Wales. His poems were almost all written in the cywydd form: a short ode not divided into stanzas, each line having the same number of syllables. The poet died about the year 1400, and according to tradition was buried in the graveyard of the monastery of Strata Florida, in Cardiganshire.

See also under Celt; Celtic Literature, iv. Welsh.

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